This story about Sebastian Stan first appeared in The Limited Series/Movies issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Even in the carefully tended superhero universe where Sebastian Stan resided for quite some time as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier in various Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, the actor still got to play a distinctly dark duality. It’s a characteristic that has marked many of Stan’s best-known roles, such as figure-skating schemer Jeff Gillooly in “I, Tonya” and his recent turn as a human butcher in the thriller “Fresh”. But the prospect of playing Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee was a whole different jam.
The Hulu miniseries “Pam & Tommy” doesn’t focus on Lee’s bad-boy image, but rather the litigation surrounding the infamous sex tape that he and wife Pamela Anderson (Lily James) made — and that ended up being a bellwether for the boon of the amateur video market. The series doesn’t shy away from showing you his goes-to-11 bluster, but it also makes room for the guy who held Anderson’s hand in the hospital during some crushing personal news and could cook up a mean, full-course Greek meal just for fun.
“I was terrified, but the themes felt very resonant and timely, and anything (where I feel) a hesitancy or fear means there’s really something to unpack,” said the Romanian-born actor, who moved to the States in the ‘90s when he was an adolescent (and the heyday of hair-metal mania was over).
“Actually, in 2006, there were auditions for (the Motley Crüe biopic) ‘The Dirt,’ and I had actually gotten an audition to play Vince Neil. That film didn’t end up getting made then, but later did elsewhere (at Netflix), but by then I was too old for it.” Eventually, “I, Tonya” director Craig Gillespie approached Stan about “Pam & Tommy.“ He said, ‘I think you’d be great for this,’ though I was never quite sure why he thought that.”
Stan’s wild-eyed yet empathetic portrayal of the drummer with bravado to spare has won him praise from critics. The physical transformation into Lee took up to three hours every day to ensure that the jet-black hair, multiple ear-and-nipple piercings and tattoos were just right. There was even the application of a prosthetic puppet penis (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas) to whom Lee waxes romantic about his love for Anderson. This came right out of the eyebrow-raising biography “Tommyland” by Anthony Bozza that Stan used as a guidepost. (Lee also gave the miniseries his blessing.)
“Talking to (the hair and makeup team and costume designers) is just as important as the director,” Stan said. “I like to hear what they’re thinking and their take on the scene. In this instance, they were essential, because I don’t have tattoos and I don’t wear thongs,” he added, laughing. “But that time in the chair was very helpful. I used to listen to audio of Tommy to prepare, and it was just a great time on my own.”
The actor also had to learn to wail on a drum set like Lee notoriously did. He took lessons and is still trying to keep up with it post-shoot. “Tommy said it was a great outlet for him,” Stan said. “And I’ve always looked at acting as a way to learn new things, and you’re not always given that option. It’s the same with learning stunts and doing physical training. It’s just a really exciting thing.”
Read more from our Limited Series/Movie issue here.